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Are Zimbabwean women cheap?

Opinion & Analysis
Reading the frontpage headline of local daily Women splash $13 million on fake hair, I was taken aback.

Reading the frontpage headline of local daily Women splash $13 million on fake hair, I was taken aback.

Saturday Dialogue with Yvonne Gasura

I hastily calculated how much each woman spent on hair care or grooming between January 2013 and July 2014.

Considering that 52% of the roughly 14 million Zimbabweans are women, most of whom depend on fake hair to look good.

From a layman’s perspective, each woman spent, give or take, $2 on hair care in 18 months. My conclusion: Ladies, we are cheap! Considering that hair is a woman’s crowning glory, we are not doing enough to look and feel good. A black woman’s hair is too curly, brittle and difficult to manage hence the need for chemicals to straighten and soften or weaves and braids to hide it.

But what really shocked me was we live in a nation where ministers and other top government officials are splurging on imported top-of-the-range cars (to massage their egos) besides residing in government-funded houses in the leafy suburbs and getting mega-perks.

Think of how much men spend on booze, some of which is imported, and their toys — imported cars. An outcry on how women spend their hard-earned cash smacks of hypocrisy.

Our counterparts, who know how to treat themselves, are splurging way more than we do.

The article quotes Euromonitor International, saying last year, women in Nigeria, South Africa and Cameroon spent $1,1 billion on hair care — now that’s treating oneself.

Though these weaves and chemicals might help us look good, overuse and abuse is ruining many women’s delicate hair. There are women whose scalps have been damaged by harsh chemicals used to treat hair thereby thinning it, resulting in permanent hair loss. I have come across women with receding hair lines and others who are only left with patches of hair on their heads due to over-braiding, bonding and weaving.

Most women might feel like I did at first that a $13 million import bill is too small a figure to go to town about. Women have to be presentable at whatever cost. But ladies, this fixation with imported fake hair products is not only damaging our hair, it is ruining our economy.

Like the adage goes “teaspoon yakapedza saga resugar” [little by little dipping will deplete the whole stock], the figure might seem negligible, but added to all the other goods that we import, this is straining the economy.

We have to consider that we are in an economy tottering on the brink of collapse, every penny that can be put to good use counts.

Our government is encouraging us to buy local and that we need to promote local business and preserve the little that we have is a fact. We have local companies that are manufacturing braids and weaves that need our support. But our problem is we now believe that imports are better than local products.

I believe that women are custodians of the economy — for it to flourish, we have to guard jealously the little that we have.

When Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa presented the Mid-term Fiscal Policy Review statement he said between January and June this year Zimbabwe had an import bill of $3 billion while exports stood at $1,2 billion which means the country has a trade deficit of $1,8 billion. Even though it is the government that is fueling imports, as women, we need to start taking positive steps towards economic revival. Instead of exporting the few dollars that we have, we need to make more money within the confines of our country.

We have to change our mindsets as a nation, rethink how we consume. This change begins at individual level. The Women’s ministry has been trying to set up a women’s bank for years now. What is stalling this project is lack of funding.

Instead of spending millions on imports we can pool our resources as women and maybe open our bank in a year or two. I believe that hair products imports are way over $13 million, taking into consideration that most products are smuggled into the country.

Women scrounge and save to buy hair products, fake nails and lashes. Some even save money to fix their hair while their children go hungry or are dropping out of school. Priorities ladies!

You see young women with no “O” Levels to talk about spending the little that they get by hook or crook means on hair instead of putting that money to good use by going back to the desk.

Remember that “musha mukadzi” [women are home makers]. We have come to a point where, as mothers, we have to go back to basics and stop this madness of consumerism that has gripped our nation. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, physiological needs matter most. As human beings, we need food, water, shelter first and foremost, then education.

Self-esteem, which hair grooming brings, is third on the tier. Let us help educate the leaders of tomorrow. Having a child thrown out of school while the mother wears the latest and most expensive hairdo is shameful.

Local services are crumbling not only because our municipalities are misappropriating funds, but because most residents, who spend more on trivia, are not settling their bills.

Do we really need to wear fake hair to feel adequate as women? My husband, though he funds the fake hairdos under protest, prefers the natural look. He believes the thousands that I spend on hair extentions could be put to better use.

He really does admire women of mettle like Dr Olivia Muchena — whom I have never seen in a weave — but is a force to reckon with. There is also Thokozani Khupe — the MDC-T deputy president — she maintains the simplest hairdo, but looks great.

Then there is MP Jessie Majome who wears short, smart locks. These are women are so confident that they do not pay the price of spending grueling hours in hairdresser’s chair having their hair pulled and tugged to boost their self-esteem.

So ladies, do we really have to spend millions on frivolous stuff or should we be spending all that money on personal and economic development?

Women are the hope of this economy.